With so many companies transitioning to remote work around the world, it’s important for leaders to set clear expectations on how their teams should communicate, record decisions, and collaborate. One efficient way to do this is to create a remote work policy.
What is a remote work policy?
A remote work policy is a document that describes specific guidelines that employees should follow when working from locations other than the office. Remote work policies outline when employees are expected to work, how communication between teams will take place, and which meetings or company rituals remote employees are encouraged to attend.
Here are six topics you can cover in your remote work policy:
- Eligibility: what positions are eligible to work remotely?
- Availability: are employees expected to work between a specified time?
- Productivity: how is productivity going to be measured?
- Communication: how are teams expected to make and record decisions?
- Security: what security measures should be taken when working remotely?
- Equipment: does the company provide home office equipment for remote employees?
If your team is currently transitioning to remote work, it’s a good idea to create a “remote work policy” document that everyone in the company can read and access at any moment.
In order to help you with this process, we compiled a list of 10 remote-first companies and some of the remote work policies that have helped them be successful!
- GitLab’s Handbook-First Approach
- Automattic’s Use of P2 and Designated Mentors
- Buffer’s 10 Slack Agreements
- Webflow’s Track/Off-track Mechanism
- Zapier’s Lightning Talks and One-on-One Meetings
- Glitch’s Coffee Time and Remote-First Meetings
- InVision’s Official Office Hours
- Github’s Sync and Async Approach
- 1Password’s Security Considerations
- Toptal’s Weekly Recap Emails
1 GitLab’s Handbook-First Approach
GitLab is the world’s largest all-remote company, with over 1200 employees located across 67 countries. The GitLab team handbook is the central repository for how they run a fully remote team.
“We document everything: in the handbook, in meeting notes, in issues,” says the GitLab Values page. “We do that because ‘the faintest pencil is better than the sharpest memory.’ It is far more efficient to read a document at your convenience than to have to ask and explain. Having something in version control also lets everyone contribute suggestions to improve it.”
If there’s one thing you can learn from GitLab’s remote work policy, is that every decision should be documented. GitLab requires employees to adopt a “handbook-first approach” for company communication, and has made the use of meeting agendas and meeting notes mandatory for everyone in the company.
2 Automattic’s Use of P2 and Designated Mentors
Automattic is a remote company with more than 700 employees spread across 62 countries. According to the CEO, Matt Mullenweg, the “Automattic creed” states that communication is the oxygen for a distributed company.
In a similar way to GitLab, Automattic has a centralized repository for company updates and decisions. They use a WordPress blog theme called P2 for internal communication and collaboration, and encourage employees to use this “blog” instead of using email communication inside the company.
On the other hand, Automattic’s remote work policy also states that every new employee should be assigned a mentor in the same time zone:
“We pair people with a mentor in a similar time zone when they first join, so they have a designated person to chat with if they have questions about how we operate, or if they just want to chat,” said Lori McLeese, Automattic’s Global Head of HR.
3 Buffer’s 10 Slack Agreements
Buffer is a software company spread across 50 different cities. As a remote-first company, they place a high priority on synchronous communication and the use of chat tools such as Slack. However, after realizing that constant notifications were creating a feeling of overwhelm on the team, Buffer added a new section to their team communication guide:
“We put together the 10 Slack Agreements of Buffer and some best practices: our attempt at establishing common usage behavior that will help us get the most out of Slack while keeping our personal time our own,” says Hailley Griffis, Buffer’s Head of PR.
In summary, Buffer’s Slack Agreements encourage employees to:
- Use public channels to keep everyone updated on information that is not private.
- Change your status to let people know when you’re on vacation or doing deep work.
- Use threads to help everyone keep up with the conversation.
- Set up “do not disturb” when you are offline.
- Use @channel for emergencies only.
These are some Slack guidelines that you can include in your remote work policy!
4 Webflow’s Track/Off-track Mechanism
Even though Webflow’s headquarters are located in San Francisco, 70% of their team works remotely.
When asked about the company’s philosophy around logging work hours, Vlad Magdalin, the co-founder and CEO, said:
“Nobody really gets value out of logging hours aside from having a retroactive record of what was done. We have a super-lightweight on-track/off-track mechanism that’s mostly a communication medium to help our product teams with timelines. And when you’re off track, there’s a mechanism for getting back on track.”
Instead of asking employees to log their work hours, Webflow’s remote work policy states that they should use the RDA model – rework, defer, abandon – if they ever feel stuck on a project:
- Rework: “Can we add resources to the project or change the scope of the deliverable to meet the deadline?”
- Defer: “If the scope cannot be reduced, and adding resources is not an option, the next best option is to push the deadline out.”
- Abandon: “Consider this if you discover the deliverable will negatively impact the company.”
“It’s assumed that each person trusts that everybody else on the team is doing their best work. And then when things go off track, it’s almost never a loss of trust. We work together to find out what the unknowns are,” says Vlad Magdalin.
5 Zapier’s Lightning Talks and One-on-One Meetings
Zapier is a 100% distributed company with over 300 employees in 28 countries. According to Wade Foster (the co-founder and CEO), there are three important ingredients to making remote work successful: team, tools, and process.
One thing you can take away from Zapier’s remote work policy is that the company encourages employees to join a weekly call where they can learn about what other teams are doing:
“Every Thursday morning or afternoon (rotating every week to accommodate people in different time zones), we get together for lightning talks, demos, and/or interviews,” says Foster. “With over 300 people in seven major departments and even more smaller teams, it’s hard to see everyone on a weekly basis. These hangouts are a chance to say “hi!” to folks you may not normally see.”
Apart from these weekly hangouts, the company asks managers to set up recurring one-on-one meetings with their direct reports. It’s a great way to ensure that leaders are building trust and exchanging feedback with their distributed teammates.
6 Glitch’s Coffee Time and Remote-First Meetings
Glitch’s headquarters are located in New York. However, remote work is so important to the company that their Employee Handbook contains a specific section on Distributed Work.
As part of their remote work policy, Glitch asks employees to communicate their work hours with their manager and be available during that time frame.
“This is necessary to promote team efficiency and build team harmony,” says the handbook.
On the other hand, there are two innovative activities that have helped Glitch develop a strong work culture: coffee times and remote-first meetings.
Each week, employees receive an email pairing them up with another person in the company. They are encouraged to grab a beverage and chat whenever it’s convenient for both parties. It’s an opportunity to socialize and get to know people in different departments.
Remote-first meetings 💻
Every meeting is conducted over Zoom, even if some attendees are in the NYC office. If there’s someone calling into the meeting, Glitch employees are required to join from their own office or private booth so the experience is identical for all attendees.
7 InVision’s Official Office Hours
InVision’s employees work from all corners of the world, including Australia, Israel, England, Argentina, Nigeria, and New York – where their headquarters are located.
One interesting thing about this company is that, despite the difference in time zones, their remote work policy states that official working hours take place between 10 am and 6 pm ET.
However, this doesn’t mean that employees get less flexibility. According to Mark Frein, InVision’s chief people officer, people are encouraged to prove themselves through the quality of their work, and not through the number of hours that they spend in front of a desk:
“It’s about results, not where your IP address is,” says Frein. “We care about what you’re able to do or achieve. If you’re able to achieve something great while working wonky hours, then that’s great.”
8 1Password’s Security Considerations
1Password has been an almost entirely remote company for 14 years.
Apart from asking employees to over-communicate, their remote work policy also states that every worker needs to know exactly what to do to remain safe online while working from home.
“When people work from home, it inevitably brings new security considerations,” says 1Password’s CEO, Jeff Shiner.
These are some of the security guidelines that 1Password shares with their distributed employees:
- Work should only be done on trusted devices (no working from the public library or a friend’s computer).
- Employees shouldn’t store customer/sensitive information on local devices.
- Home routers should not use default passwords.
9 Github’s Synchronous and Async Approach
Github is a US-based organization where ~80% of the tech team is fully distributed.
As a remote-first company, they emphasize the importance of communicating effectively and empathizing with other people in the company. That’s why their remote work culture encourages employees to use synchronous and asynchronous collaboration throughout the day.
At GitHub, we use our internal repositories for announcements, updates, and decisions to help employees stay aligned. Oftentimes, simply restating what you’ve decided can save time in lieu of setting another meeting.
10 Toptal’s Weekly Recap Emails
Last but not least, there’s Toptal, a company that has been fully remote from day one. According to Breanden Beneschott, the co-founder and COO, employees aren’t asked to log or record their work hours. However, there is one simple thing that the Toptal team does to keep everyone accountable for doing their work: they ask teams to send a weekly recap email.
“Accountability is very important across the company, and we hold each other to a high standard in this regard,” says Beneshott. “One way we do this is by having everyone send weekly recap emails of what they did in the past week, what they thought it would achieve, and what the results were. This makes the impact of everyone’s work very clear, and it quickly becomes obvious if someone is underperforming.”
Creating Your Own Remote Work Policy
We hope that these 10 examples helped you understand what the world’s most successful remote companies are doing to keep their teams connected and engaged.
If you need a quick recap, these are our main ‘remote work policy’ takeaways:
- Document all your decisions in the form of team handbooks and meeting notes.
- Establish clear expectations around communication channels such as Slack.
- Encourage employees to connect with other people in the company.
- Share a list of security guidelines to protect sensitive information.
- Trust employees to do their work. Instead of tracking work hours, ask them to share important milestones at the end of the week.
Last but not least, your remote work policy should remind employees of the company mission. At Fellow.app, our mission is to help managers and their teams have effective 1-on-1s and team meetings – and that doesn’t go away just because we’re working from home 🏠.